Australia & Pacifics

Extreme isolation: world's last virus-free corners hold tight

31 March 2020; AFP: A coronavirus-free tropical island nestled in the northern Pacific may seem the perfect place to ride out a pandemic -- but residents on Palau say life right now is far from idyllic.

The microstate of 18,000 people is among a dwindling number of places on Earth that still report zero cases of COVID-19 as figures mount daily elsewhere.

The disparate group also includes Samoa, Turkmenistan, North Korea and bases on the frozen continent of Antarctica.

Australian Gov announces $130 billion 3rd Rescue Package

Canberra; 30 March 2020 (UMM): Eight days since the second stimulus package was announced, Australian PM Scott Morrison announced a third stimulus package to the tune of $130 billion to save “hibernating” businesses forced to close their doors during lockdown, and their employees.

Package includes a $1,500 per fortnight payment to employers, so that they can maintain their employees during this hibernation period.

Australia asks people to isolate more even as coronavirus spread slows

MELBOURNE (Reuters) - Australians were asked on Sunday to further isolate themselves from the public to keep the coronavirus from spreading even as authorities said the rate of daily infections has halved in recent days.

Government officials said that public gatherings must be restricted to two people and Australians should stay inside unless shopping for essentials, exercising, going to work or medical care. Those over 70 should self-isolate themselves.

Aussie local election goes ahead despite virus threat

28 March 2020; AFP: People in the Australian state of Queensland were urged to vote in local elections on Saturday or face a fine of Aus$133 ($80), as polls went ahead despite most citizens being encouraged to stay home to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

The state's top health official said it was safe to vote in person as long as people followed social distancing guidelines.

"There's no risk here, we've got to remember the risk of people going to the shops is far, far higher," Jeannette Young told reporters.

83 New Cases Of COVID-19 Reported In New Zealand

WELLINGTON, Mar 28 (NNN-AGENCIES) – New Zealand reported 78 new confirmed and five probable cases of COVID-19 on Saturday morning, bringing the total number of infections to 451 in the country.

Director of New Zealand Civil Defence Emergency Management, Sarah Stuart-Black, gave the update.

Some 50 people have recovered, while 12 people are in hospital. Two people are in intensive care, one of whom is on a ventilator, said Stuart-Black.

Australian Army Reservists Called On For COVID-19 Support

CANBERRA, Mar 26 (NNN-AGENCIES) – The Australian Army is preparing to deploy reservists to assist with the Australian Defence Force’s response to COVID-19.

The Guardian Australia, today published an email sent by Carmen Sieger, the acting director of the directorate of contingent workforce management army, earlier in Mar, in which Sieger called on reservists for help, if they had the willingness and capacity for work “likely to result from our current environment.”

It would be the second time in 2020. reservists will be deployed in response to the crisis.

Cruise Ships Told To Leave Australian Waters

SYDNEY, Mar 26 (NNN-BNA) – Two cruise ships, off the coast of Western Australia, have been told to “immediately” leave Australian waters, after the country’s worst outbreak of the COVID-19 was traced to a cruise liner that docked at Sydney Harbour last week. Cruise ships have become a flash point for the epidemic in Australia after 147 of 2,700 passengers, who disembarked from the Ruby Princess cruise ship in Sydney, later tested positive for COVID-19.

New Zealand mosque terrorist pleads guilty to murder, terrorism

WELLINGTON, New Zealand (AP) — The man who committed the worst atrocity in New Zealand’s modern history when he slaughtered 51 worshippers at two Christchurch mosques unexpectedly pleaded guilty to all charges Thursday.

The attacks targeting people praying at the mosques a year ago shocked the nation and prompted new laws banning the deadliest types of semi-automatic weapons. It also prompted global changes to social media protocols after the gunman livestreamed his attack on Facebook, where it was viewed by hundreds of thousands of people.

Australian cruise becomes nation's worst coronavirus cluster

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Greg Butler was rushed to hospital with COVID-19 within days of getting home to self-isolate after being allowed off the Ruby Princess cruise liner in Sydney, one of more than 130 passengers who tested positive in Australia’s worst coronavirus outbreak.

One of them, a woman, died earlier this week.

The 56-year-old Butler had been holidaying with his partner, Robin Russ, who remains in isolation.

“I tested negative and he tested positive,” Russ said over the telephone from the apartment they moved to for quarantine.

Non-urgent surgery suspended in Australia to facilitate COVID-19 fight

CANBERRA, March 25 (Xinhua) -- The Australian government announced Wednesday that non-urgent elective surgery will be suspended to allow more capacity in hospitals while the country is combating COVID-19.

According to the Australian government, from 11:59 p.m. local time Wednesday, only category one and some exceptional category two surgery will continue in public and private hospitals until further notice.

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